When it comes to running, longer may not be better. Numerous studies are now showing that you can get better results from working out for shorter, more intense periods of time. Whether it’s to increase your endurance, lose weight or just get healthier, interval training is one of the best ways to reach your goals in less time than a moderate paced run or workout.
There really is no reason to not do interval training
Research suggests that 30-second to five-minute bursts of intense exercise interspersed with rest periods will yield unique physiological changes—from faster fat loss and better blood sugar control to improved blood vessel function—that slow runs cannot deliver as efficiently. “When it comes to these benefits, interval training is at least equal to and often superior to your traditional steady run,” says exercise scientist Jonathan Little, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. “And it doesn’t have to be an elite-athlete-type workout to be effective.”
Skeletal muscle is critical for soaking up glucose from food and keeping blood sugar levels in check. Because intense interval training engages a broader range of muscle fibers, it essentially creates a bigger sponge, helping to fend off diabetes, says Little. It also strengthens the heart muscle and blood vessels and increases the number of mitochondria (the fuel-burning engines in your muscles), making the body more efficient at metabolizing fuel. The result: You have more energy—for running and for doing everything else.Warm up for 15 minutes. Run one minute at 10-K pace (a 7 to 8 on an exertion scale of 1 to 10). Walk or jog one minute, then repeat. Start with four to six reps. Build to 10 reps.
“I’m trying to lose weight, so I’m focused on running consistently, not fast.”
“The faster you run, the more calories you expend,” says Adam St. Pierre, M.S., an exercise physiologist with Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. Research suggests that interval training also prompts the body to burn more calories in the hours after exercise. It shouldn’t replace moderate running entirely, says St. Pierre. You need both. But a weekly speed session can spice things up and utilize different muscles, potentially reducing your injury risk (provided you’re careful to ease into speedwork and build workout duration and intensity gradually).
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